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Letters: Culture of secrecy shows Holyrood is not fit for purpose

IT has been apparent for some time that the parliamentary system at Holyrood is not working at all well. The recent exchanges about the ferries fiasco have demonstrated this clearly (“Swinney denies he gave the ‘final nod’ to Calmac contract”, The Herald, May 13). Nicola Sturgeon leads a Government that will not take responsibility for any misadventure or mistake made on its watch. It has most recently used a former minister as scapegoat for decisions that everyone knows were taken at a higher level than his then position as Transport Secretary.

As the Auditor General has commented, the Government’s lack of transparency is a problem. The executive has virtually authoritarian power because there are no checks or balances of the kind that there are at Westminster. Importantly, the role of strong select committees there has not been replicated in the Holyrood apparatus, where the executive dominates committees.

All of this is a matter of extreme concern in an atmosphere where the ruling regime is campaigning for Scotland to be entirely separate from the UK, with untrammelled power in the hands of people who are clearly unfit to exercise it. Holyrood is not fit for purpose. It is an experiment that has failed.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

WHO POLICES THE REDACTIONS?

FREEDOM of Information legislation has been one of the most important pieces of legislation in our democracy, although I doubt political parties in power would fulsomely agree, certainly not the current Scottish Government given its reluctance to comply on multiple occasions.

That aside, I think there is now another tool in the Government armory to avoid scrutiny; redaction of documents. Clearly some redaction is necessary to protect an individual’s privacy and the like. However, as has been seen this week on the ongoing ferry fiasco, you would seriously have to question just why that level of redaction was necessary other than to protect the Government. We saw this repeatedly during the Salmond inquiry and we meekly accepted it.

This begs the question: just who polices these redactions? Surely there needs to be some independent scrutiny of these redaction decisions? Does this come under the remit of the FoI Commissioner? If not it probably should, because we need to know this system is not being abused by anti-democratic forces.

Redactions should be kept to an absolute minimum for a very short list of exceptions and not left to politically motivated individuals wielding their big black pens.

Ian McNair, Cellardyke.

* HOW inspired was I by the drama of the missing email being held high in the Scottish Parliament? It brought back memories of Chamberlain’s visit to Herr Hitler.

Now, perhaps, the missing documents of the Salmond inquiry will also be found after enthusiastic raking with baying hounds. I fear there is no need for the Devil to turn up the thermostats just yet.

Peter Wright, West Kilbride.

FERRIES CONTRACT A SIDESHOW

THE Calmac ferry contract issue is turning into a never-ending TV soap opera that had little traction with last week’s voting public.

However, the procurement process or who signed the Calmac ferries contract are merely sideshows compared to the actual problems with construction. No one is denying that it is a costly mess, albeit with the best of intentions to maintain Scotland’s commercial shipbuilding capacity, and not helped by numerous design changes plus nine months of Covid shutdown.

Ferguson’s bid was non-profit, to help win future contracts and CMAL thought it was the best quality, but the most expensive bid. However, as Ferguson’s could not provide a full contract guarantee, this was reduced to 50 per cent liability and a judgment call was made by the Scottish Government in order to create 400 jobs.

Opponents of the SNP would have been the first to complain if this work had gone abroad and the Polish and German yards that previously built ferries for CMAL went into administration with both ships needing additional remedial work.

Any useful inquiry into ferries in Scotland would also investigate why independent Ireland has 44 direct weekly sailings to Europe while Scottish exporters are paying the Brexit price of goods being held up at Dover.

By comparison, there is little media interest in the Royal Navy’s six Type-45 destroyers which were years late and £1. 5 billion over budget with an ongoing unreliable propulsion system that is scheduled to take until 2028 to fully repair, with several vessels currently out of action at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.

THIS PERFIDIOUS GOVERNMENT

IT is worth recalling that England earned early in its history the title of Perfidious Albion in Europe.

If the machinations to dismantle the Northern Ireland Protocol are anything to go by (“PM claims protocol must be ‘fixed'”, The Herald, May 13), it would appear that the Westminster Government is unwilling to shed that particular person without a fight .

Boris Johnson and Lord Frost played a major part in devising the protocol to make sure that they could get Brexit over the line.

We all recall their joy when they announced that they had delivered an excellent deal for the UK.

Since then the emphasis has been to remove the protocol as though Westminster had been forced into accepting that formula by the EU.

Specious arguments are now employed to make it look as though they had no hand, act or part in coming up with the creation of the condition which delivered Brexit. The EU, which has generously made concessions to accommodate the UK’s newly discovered misgivings, finds itself depicted as legalistic and intransigent in the increasingly hostile narrative used against it by the representatives of the Westminster Government.

Such propaganda reinforces the credibility of the title the Continent once saw fit to anoint England with from the bad faith it experienced in its dealings with our island.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.

INSULT TO FOOD BANK USERS

I’VE been following with astonishment the comments made in the House of Commons by MP Lee Anderson in relation to food banks (“Tory MP taken to task over his ‘can’t cook’ comments on food bank users”, The Herald, May 12). This former Labor MP turned Tory MP (what else) insults every food bank user by suggesting that they cannot cook and every food bank should be offering them a cooking course.

Such sweeping generalizations must surely be a form of discrimination against the lower-income members of our society. This misguided and inaccurate stereotyping serves no useful purpose.

Mr Anderson needs to understand that many people do not go into a food bank willingly and understandably many find the whole situation demeaning, degrading and embarrassing. Many find that circumstances out with their control necessitate their food bank use. To then have them attend cooking courses shows just how out of touch this man is. Such crass comments are unhelpful, to put it mildly. Mr Anderson continues by saying that wholesome meals can be prepared for 30p.

Instead of unfairly criticizing and making some wholly inappropriate comments against food bank users, Mr Anderson would do far more good if he – and his colleagues – could make it their mission by working night and day to ensure that our society is fairer and more just for everyone. By doing so, we would reach the wonderful day when food banks become redundant.

That would be a cause for a huge celebration and I would be the first to congratulate Mr Anderson.

I also note that he claims about £206,000 per annum in expenses alone and perhaps this figure would be reduced considerably if he spent a month or two existing – not living – on 30p meals.

Stewart Falconer, Alyth.

SEVILLE FRENZY DOES NOT ADD UP

I READ that an important football match is due to take place in Spain on Wednesday and that it is almost impossible to book travel to Seville due to the thousands of fans hoping to be there.

At the same time, the media reports the misery of people struggling to cope with the mounting costs of energy and fuel, with the prospect of fuel poverty likely to affect so many in the country.

Something does not seem to add up.

Covid may be on the wane, but is it possible that a wave of “sickies” will surface around midweek?

Malcolm Allan, Bishopbriggs.

SCOTLAND SET FOR TRYING TIME

MY congratulations to Martin Hannan (“Dealing with failure should top our list of priorities”, Herald Sport, May 12) and David Barnes (“Scottish Rugby need to get real and devise long-term plan”, Herald Sport, May 10) for their critiques of Scottish rugby, both at club and country level.

We seem far too ready to accept the excuse of “building for the future” and allowing failure to be apart of that. It seems to have been lost on everyone within the sphere of Scotland’s rugby that winning is a habit, and it is one that cannot be under-estimated.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell has had a frustrating season with the national team

Having watched Finn Russell’s spectacular try for Racing ’92, and then a video of his best contributions since his move to Paris, it begs the question: is the Scottish rugby set-up actually holding him (and others) back from producing their best? We are 15 months away from the Rugby World Cup and with the recent failure of Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby, are we (as a nation) likely to be ready for that tournament? With South Africa and the resurgent Ireland in our group, we are likely to be embarrassed by yet another failure.

I hope to be proven wrong on all aspects of the above, but no matter the outcome for the teams, we all hope for nothing but a positive outcome for Scott Hastings.

Francis Deigman, Erskine.

AYE I…

NEIL Bowman (Letters, May 12) complains that the Duke of Cambridge cannot speak the Queen’s English because he said “for Catherine and I”. Between you and I, usage is changing and even the upper classes commonly say such things. They regard “I” as posher than “me”. I wonder if they say “Hello, it’s I” instead of “It’s me”?

Helen Ross, Bridge of Allan.

HAT TRICK

FURTHER to Gordon Berry’s letter (May 13) regarding what to call people who are co-habiting, may I say that I thought it was cowboys who had partners. As my old Dad used to say when a lady and a gentlemen had chosen to co-habit, the gentleman would have “thrown his bunnet in.”

James Caldwell, Glasgow.

Read more: Independence would do huge damage to the poor

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